NEW YORK (Reuters) – Tennessee emerged on Wednesday as an epicenter of the latest COVID-19 surge as U.S. political leaders sought to guard against a highly contagious variant sweeping across Britain.
The southern state averaged nearly 128 new infections per 100,000 people over the last seven days, the highest state rate in the country, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. It was followed by California at 111 new cases per 100,000 residents.
“Our state is ground zero for a surge in COVID-19 and we need Tennesseans to (do) their part,” Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said on Twitter with a graphic stating: “Tennessee cannot sustain another holiday surge.”
Public health officials believe that Americans traveling and gathering for the Thanksgiving holiday contributed to the latest explosion in cases.
All told 31 U.S. states have reported a grim record in new COVID-19 infections for December as hospitalizations and deaths also spiral. More than 194,600 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday alone.
Americans who saw a ray of hope in the release of two vaccines in December learned of an even more transmissible coronavirus variant spreading in the United Kingdom, which has not been fully tested against the inoculations.
The United States, unlike many nations worldwide, has not banned travelers from Britain.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that international